Nestled in a trough valley between the mammoth rock faces of the Bernese Alps, lies the village of Lauterbrunnen. It is aptly named, meaning “many fountains,” as seventy-two waterfalls are scattered throughout the valley. In places the cliff walls that flank the valley are over 3,000 feet high. Friedhof Lauterbrunnen, the village cemetery, is located near the highest waterfall in Switzerland, Mürrenbach Fall, cascading 1,638 feet off the cliffside. The Lauterbrunnen valley is described as stunning, picturesque, and one of the most beautiful settings on earth.
Since the 13th century, when the valley first appeared in historic record, the land has passed through the hands of Freiherr of Wädenswil, Interlaken monastery, the Lord of Turn, and the parish of Gsteig bei Interlaken, and on to village governments. This 18th century drawing depicts the valley, waterfall, river, church and other structures.
In 2010, when two districts merged, Lauterbrunnen became part of the Interlaken-Oberhasli District. The striking valley, its surrounding mountain hikes and views, as well as popular winter sports, make Lauterbrunnen a major tourist destination year-round. You can visit by train or car and also take the tram to neighboring Mürren.
At the back of the village, Friedhof Lauterbrunnen is laid out in tidy rows with rock pathways, each plot its own flower garden.
The headstones are unique in shape and construction; such as hewn rock, granite slab, or wood with a small roof structure. Some of the headstones are etched to include a home in a mountainous landscape.
The cemetery allows burials for those that live in Wengen, Mürren, Gimmelwald, Stechelberg, and Lauterbrunnen. Often the town where they are from is included on the headstone.
We learn from this inscription that Markus Aellen-Graf was a glaciologist while living in the Bernese Alps. It’s likely he studied nearby glaciers, such as Aletsch or Eiger. In this cemetery there are headstones etched with a helicopter, bus, truck, tram, and even a sailboat giving us a glimpse in to their lives and hobbies.
The people of Lauterbrunnen live in what seems like a mystical land of waterfalls, myst, and crisp mountain air. An interesting sidenote, J. R. R. Tolkien visited Lauterbrunnen while on a trip to Switzerland in 1911. He hiked in to the valley from Interlaken. This experience stuck with him and influenced his creation of the valley of Rivendell. In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien he is recorded saying, “From Rivendell to the other side of the Misty Mountains, the journey … including the glissade [of Bilbo and the Dwarves] down the slithering stones into the pine woods … is based on my adventures in Switzerland in 1911.” You can see the resemblance of Lauterbrunnen and Rivendell in his painted sketch here.
Have you visited Friedhof Lauterbrunnen? Tell us all about it!